The U.S. Economy In a Nutshell: When Critical Parts Are On “Indefinite Back Order,” the Machine Grinds to a Halt, by Charles Hugh Smith

For want of a nail . . . From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

A great many essential components in America are on ‘indefinite back order’, including the lifestyle of endless globally sourced goodies at low, low prices.

Setting aside the “transitory inflation” parlor game for a moment, let’s look at what happens when critical parts are unavailable for whatever reason, for example, they’re on back order or indefinite back order, i.e. the supplier has no visibility on when the parts will be available.

If the part that blew out is 0.1% of the entire machine, and the other 99.9% still works perfectly, the entire machine is still dead in the water without that critical component. That is a pretty good definition of systemic vulnerability and fragility, a fragility that becomes much, much worse if there are two or three components which are on indefinite back order.

This is the problem with shipping much of your supply chain overseas: you create extreme systemic vulnerability and fragility even as you rake in big profits from reducing costs. Speaking of costs, let’s look at the costs of having a large, costly, complex mechanism sitting idle in a non-functioning state due to some broken element for which there is no substitute available. Whatever productive capacity the mechanism, process, etc. had is now stuck at zero.

Buying a new replacement is extremely costly, and that’s not always available for all the same reasons that parts and components aren’t available. Finding someone to fabricate a new component is not easy due to the wholesale transfer of manufacturing moxie and capability overseas.

You might be able to find someone to weld a replacement strut, but try finding someone to fab a new bicycle derailleur or better yet, a multilayer semiconductor chip. What about 3-D fabrication? Doesn’t that solve this problem? If the part can be “printed,” yes, but there are limits on what can be 3-D fabbed. You can’t 3-D fab a complex thermostat or controller, for example. You can’t 3-D fab a rubber gasket, either, or a great many other bits of petrochemical-based manufacturing.

Continue reading→

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.